Victoria’s Secret UK goes into administration putting 800 jobs and 25 stores at risk

The UK arm of lingerie brand Victoria's Secret has slipped into administration, raising fears for more than 800 employees (pictured: The 2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in New York City)

Victoria’s Secret UK has crashed into administration, becoming the latest high street casualty of the pandemic and putting more than 800 jobs in jeopardy.

Sales have nosedived during the lockdown after the lingerie retailer’s 25 British stores were forced to shutter.

The firm has already furloughed 785 of its workers, who have been further tossed into the lurch as administrators from Deloitte are called in. 

Deloitte will try to find a buyer for its assets, or re-negotiate its rents, in a bid to pull it out of administration. 

Victoria’s Secret will try to drum up business online to mitigate against the gaping sales vacuum left by the closure of its stores. 

Many high street shops have been fighting to stay afloat amid a plummet in profits because of mothballed stores.

The US-based clothing company has further been dogged by its owner Leslie Wexner’s ties to the late disgraced paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

The UK arm of lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret has slipped into administration, raising fears for more than 800 employees (pictured: The 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in New York City)

The Victoria's Secret store on the corner of New Bond Street and Brook Street, London, today

The Victoria’s Secret store on the corner of New Bond Street and Brook Street, London, today

The company had already furloughed 785 of its workers before appointing administrators (pictured: A shop in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

The company had already furloughed 785 of its workers before appointing administrators (pictured: A shop in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

Administrators will try to find a buyer for its assets, or re-negotiate its rents, in a bid to pull it out of administration (pictured: models backstage at Victoria's Secret 2018 New York show)

Administrators will try to find a buyer for its assets, or re-negotiate its rents, in a bid to pull it out of administration (pictured: models backstage at Victoria’s Secret 2018 New York show)

Rob Harding, joint administrator at Deloitte, said: ‘This is yet another blow to the UK high street and a further example of the impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on the entire retail industry. 

‘The effect of the lockdowns, combined with broader challenges facing bricks and mortar retailers, has resulted in a funding requirement for this business, resulting in today’s administration.

‘We will now work with the existing management team and broader stakeholders to assess all options available for the future of the business.

‘As administrators we’d like to thank them and all of the employees for their support, at what we appreciate is a difficult time.’ 

In May private equity vehicle Sycamore Brands pulled out of a 525 million US dollar (£407 million) deal to take a 55 per cent stake in Victoria’s Secret.

Mr Harding added: ‘We will now work with the existing management team and broader stakeholders to assess all options available for the future of the business.

‘As administrators we’d like to thank them and all of the employees for their support, at what we appreciate is a difficult time.’ 

Choosing a so-called ‘light touch’ process will allow the business to keep trading, while putting off its debts for the time being.  

The company works with some of the world's most high profile model (pictured: Stella Maxwell and models Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, Backstage, Grand Palais, Paris)

The company works with some of the world’s most high profile model (pictured: Stella Maxwell and models Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, Backstage, Grand Palais, Paris)

Brazilian model Lais Ribeiro walks the runway at the 2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show on November 8, 2018 at Pier 94 in New York City

Brazilian model Lais Ribeiro walks the runway at the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on November 8, 2018 at Pier 94 in New York City

Recently the company had announced it planned to permanently close 250 stores in the United States and Canada in 2020.

Victoria’s Secret has 849 stores in North America. The majority of these locations, like those in the UK, have remained closed since March after the coronavirus pandemic hit the US. 

While many have managed to stay afloat by clinging onto government support, several businesses have been forced to call in administrators.

Debenhams, Cath Kidston and Laura Ashley are among the big high street names who have fallen victim to the virus.

But before coronavirus pounded the global economy, L Brands was already facing questions over its billionaire owner’s relationship with Mr Epstein.

A recent Netflix documentary, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, pored over their friendship, which it claimed stretched back to 1986.

For two decades Epstein was personal wealth adviser to Wexner and reporedly tried to influence the selection of Victoria’s Secret models.

Willow Hand, Leomie Anderson, Alanna Arrington and models backstage at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, New York, in 2018

Willow Hand, Leomie Anderson, Alanna Arrington and models backstage at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, New York, in 2018

He also purchased a $10million plane on the company’s behalf, according to the Wall Street Journal.    

The company has also faced accusations of misogyny and last year axed its annual runway show amid claims its marketing is over-sexualised.

A-list celebrities such as Kyle Jenner have also worked closely with Victoria’s Secret, taking to the catwalk for the brand in 2018. 

The company was founded in 1977 by US businessman Roy Raymond, who set up a small chain of boudoir lingerie shops when he could find no man-friendly women’s stores.

In 1982 he sold the company to clothing magnate Les Wexner for $1million – a fraction of its current value. Raymond latertook his own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

He chose the name Victoria after Queen Victoria, thinking it sounded refined, and added Secret to refer to what was hidden under the clothes.

Models on the catwalk Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, Lexington Avenue Armory, New York,  2015

Models on the catwalk Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, Lexington Avenue Armory, New York,  2015

Hundreds of stores opened coast to coast and 25million brochures were delivered, but it was the glitzy launch of Victoria’s Secret’s first blatantly sexy catwalk show at the Plaza Hotel, New York in 1995 which made the difference.

Broadcast on network TV to 185 countries, millions tuned in to see supermodels Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Tyra Banks and Karen Mulder parade in their underwear.

Celebrity endorsements rolled in, music stars such as Katy Perry and Taylor Swift performed at company shows and in 2004 Bob Dylan even agreed to take part in its TV commercial.

Victoria’s Secret opened its first flagship store in London’s Bond Street in 2012, and staged its first catwalk show in 2014, but recent years have been more challenging.

Aside from a small rise in the first quarter in 2018, the lingerie retailer had falling sales every quarter since the fourth quarter in 2016.

Victoria’s Secret shuttered 20 stores in 2018 amid a poor annual sales performance, ending the year with former CEO Jan Singer resigning last November.

The lingerie giant’s parent company, L Brands, confirmed in November 2019 that its famous show wouldn’t take place. The decision was part of a move to ‘evolve the messaging of [the company],’ Fortune reported at the time

It came a year after marketing chief Ed Razek saying that the brand would not cast plus-sized or ‘transexual’ models because the show is a ‘fantasy.’

With consumers turning away from glamour towards comfort, plus a huge backlash following reports of Wexner’s historic friendship with disgraced financier Jeffery Epstein, Victoria’s Secret faced an identity crisis.

As well as a shift in public perception of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, the brand faced a continued decline in sales.

Earlier this year, the brand tried a new approach, posting photos on its Instagram account that promote neutral underwear in a variety of skin tones and using models from different ethnic backgrounds and showing size diversity.

However, some lingerie fans said the company’s bid to finally become more diverse was ‘too little, too late’ and accused the brand of ‘playing catch-up’. 

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